Oregon Corrections Enterprises is a self-sustaining business that operates in most state prisons and receives no taxpayer dollars.

COURTESY PHOTO: SPECIAL TO THE STATESMAN JOURNAL - Inmates at the Eastern Oregon Corrections Institution in Pendleton are sewing face masks for use in prisons.Hospitals throughout the world have been unable to get new supplies of personal protective equipment such as face masks, gowns and gloves due to the shortage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thousands of inmates in Oregon could be one solution.

Oregon Corrections Enterprises, a semi-independent state agency, is producing 30,000 non-medical face masks for use by the Department of Corrections and is seeking to make medical-grade masks for hospitals that could help fill the shortfall.

"In an emergency you can't get the help quick enough," OCE Administrator Ken Jeske said.

A 1994 ballot measure required inmates in Oregon to work 40 hours each week or receive on-the-job training. Oregon Corrections Enterprises has operated at most Oregon prisons since 1999 and receives no taxpayer dollars. It is self-sustaining through sales of its products and services.

Its inmate employees normally produce items such as park benches, gun safes, grills, furniture and clothing. They also provide services such as working in a DMV call center.

A few weeks ago, the Oregon Employment Department expressed need for hand sanitizer stations.

This Salem Statesman Journal story is shared as part of a local media project to increase COVID-19 news coverage.


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